People are intimidated by the Miami Heat‘s Big 3.
Well, imagine a Big 12.
Teams would be running away in the other direction as fast as possible when faced with such a prospect. Well, they would if they took the roster at face value. But most teams don’t. I’d never dare to suggest that team USA is anything short of utterly formidable. But they can be beaten.
Basketball is a great equalizer. You can have multimillion dollar talent on your squad, the best players money can buy, and still lose to a blue collar team. Unlike one-on-one sports, basketball requires teamwork. One thing people often overlook is that there is only one ball, regardless of how many other-worldly talented players you amass on your squad, there is just one ball. If it were a game of 1 on 1 between all 5 players, then USA would be unbeatable. But at the end of the day it’s only the ten players on the court and what they are doing for the duration of the game, which decides what’s going to happen.
Two teams came very, very close to beating USA – Spain and Lithuania. Both teams were snapping at the heels of USA right till the end of the game. One player put his foot down, same player in both cases, and slammed the door shut for USA’s opponents’ attempts to climb back in.
USA vs Lithuania. USA had come into this game with a record breaking win over Nigeria, 156-73. The simplest rule in basketball is to score more points than the other team. USA scored more than twice as many points as Nigeria in this rout. Confidence was at an all time high coming into this game vs Lithuania. Fast forward to the waning minutes of the 4th quarter, it’s USA 87-84 Lithuania. Couple of minutes left. Opponents snapping at their heels, LeBron James hits a three and then dunks it home to let USA pull away. LeBron scored 9 points in the final four minutes. ”It was like LeBron said, ‘I got this, I’m doing this,” U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Eerily similar situation, another close game, USA 97-91 Spain with a couple of minutes left. In an eerily similar manner, LeBron James flew in for a dunk and then hit a three to let USA pull away. Five points in less than a minute. Kevin Durant was the top scorer with 30 points in this game. LeBron added 19, but in the clutching phase it was LeBron James putting the team on his back and carrying them to the promised land.
People talk about the most important player for Team USA in this Olympics. Usual suspects come to mind – Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, LeBron James. Leave aside stats and advanced metrics. Team USA won its games with an average margin of nearly 35 points. It’s easy to pad stats and fill up the box score when you are steamrolling the opposition. The King has indisputably been the most important and the most valuable player for team USA. When the going got tough, when players were looking at each other in disbelief wondering how did they let their opponents hang around for so long. Not just hang around but have a legitimate shot at taking down USA. When push came to shove, Lebron James responded and emphatically shut the door on their opponents with two of the most demoralizing shots in basketball.
One dunk and one three pointer to slam the door shut on those who challenged his throne.